Friday, October 15, 2004

Can we save America from fanatics? I shouldn't be allowed to read the news (because it makes me foam at the mouth), but I couldn't help but notice an article on today's CNN webpage (http://www.cnn.com/2004/US/10/15/halloween.sabbath.ap/index.html) about the apparent quandary being experienced across our nation's bible belt regarding the celebration of Halloween on a Sunday this year. The article quotes a number of enlightened folks, such as the following "authority":

"You just don't do it on Sunday," said Sandra Hulsey of Greenville, Georgia. "That's Christ's day. You go to church on Sunday, you don't go out and celebrate the devil. That'll confuse a child."

I'm not going to waste everyone's time pontificating on the virtues of Halloween, my favorite holiday of the year....either you love it or you don't, but as the Dead Kennedy's sang on 'Halloween,' "Why don't you take your social regulations and shove them up your ass!"

If you love Halloween, check out www.oldfashionhalloween.com .

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Misfortune, oppression and war can be counted on to catalyze the arts, so that the worst of times bring the best songs, paintings, poems. And often when the shit is hitting the fan, old heroes arise again - like the legend that King Arthur would return to defend England in a time of need. Both these ideas were sparring in my head last night while I watched Television and Patti Smith play their hearts out at Roseland Ballroom in good old NYC. I felt like I was fulfilling one of my favorite dreams - to travel back in time to the late 1970s and watch punk rock's birth at CBGBs and Max's Kansas City.

Television played for about an hour, drawing primarily on material from Marquee Moon and also throwing in "Call Mister Lee" from their 1992 release. Their songs, which seem to build upon themselves, increasing in complexity and finally releasing tension with a series of instrumental flourishes, entranced the audience. We listened transfixed as the band produced a memento of the skittery, experimental ambiance that must have surrounded their first concerts and then switched tracks to the smooth, rock noir delivery of "Mister Lee." Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd were a joy to watch, trading guitar solos, showing how great musicianship applied with minimalist grace and expert strategy produces peerless rock and roll.

Patti Smith was a limitless reservoir of energy - leaping, proclaiming, exhorting the crowd, reading, singing, pulling off and tossing away her shoes, spraying water from her mouth, playing some kind of near-East raga on clarinet, posing and strutting with an acoustic guitar like Elvis (although she explained that while it was tempting to play the Elvis role, she cast away her delusions of grandeur pretty quickly because she only knew 5 or 6 chords). Patti and her band performed in front of a screen that flashed with images of odd films, William Blake etchings, WTO and anti-war protest marches, antique farms and WPA work crews, and images from the life of Gandhi (October 2nd, the day of show, was the 135th anniversary of Gandhi's birth). Perhaps most arresting were the scenes of Iraqi historic sites, beautiful landscapes of cities, mosques, rivers, and oases that paraded across the screen while Patti sang about mothers in Baghdad covering their childrens' faces with their veils and singing them lullabies as the green and red glows of tracers and missiles intruded on the evening dark ('Radio Baghdad'). Patti read poetry from books clenched in her hand, her attitude earnest, intense, tales read aloud transforming into songs, and then as the band played louder and Patti whirled around the stage, a window on the ecstatic state, the transformation of consciousness into some kind of shamanic state. She joked about her self-inflicted hair cut, apologized for making a few mistakes after "running through that number in the bathroom before the show," and roused the crowd to a fever pitch with "People Have the Power." The band opened with a musical obliteration, a nitrous-injected rendition of "Rock n Roll Nigger" and went on to perform most of the material from the new record "Trampin."

All in all, it was a hell of a night. It was a good enough show to ward off the grim dreams of hurricanes, volcanoes, avian flu, human lives extinguished in fire fights in the back alleys of desert cities, that seem to be stalking us all, while still reminding us of our responsibility and power to do something about all of it, even if that is just the creation of something beautiful or provocative, a musical conversation beginning in NYC one night and hopefully continuing to ripple outward through the coming struggles.